The first time someone called me Aunty, it kind of stopped me in my tracks. I was about 19 or so and thought - me? Aunty? As it was a small child, I thought it was kind of sweet and it made me feel quite grown up. Now many years later I am an aunty to ten children on my husband side and one (plus one to be here soon insh'Allah) on my families side, not to mention the small children of numerous cousins and friends who also call me aunty. It's quite sweet and also polite manners when small children call me Aunty. I don't even mind when it's a teenager, because they are just being polite and probably anyone over 25 looks elderly to them. But I always feel a bit annoyed when it's someone who's closer to 30 (or over) who calls me Aunty.
I'm 34 and my children range from 1 to 11. That’s makes me perfectly suitable to be the aunty of a small child, but still too young to be the aunty of someone who is about three years younger than me. Don’t get me wrong, my youngest half-uncle on my mum's side is 14 and my children's youngest aunt is my one-year old cousin, that’s the kind of thing that happens in big sprawling families where people have been married more than once. But it's not the same as the balding photographer at a wedding who tells you to "stop talking aunty" (I get told to stop talking a lot) or the paunchy guy at the Asian fabric shop who takes your order with a "yes aunty?"
The thing that annoys me is not being seen as older. I have spent half my life hoping to be taken seriously and struggling because I look young. I am not embarrassed about my age either - I am 34 and happy to declare it. What annoys me is that most of these guys seem to do it because I wear hijab and because I am married with children. So basically you are pretty, young and worth paying attention to….or an aunty. This happened at my sister fashionista's wedding. It's tradition in our neck of the woods for the brides sisters to block the stage and not let the groom sit down until he has given them a gift (organised extortion). We agreed before hand that he would pay us in chocolate and my brother-in-law turned up with sacks of chocolate coins (he is a very sweet guy alhamdulillah). His friend had the loot and promptly ignored me and handed them to my two younger sisters and my sister-in-law. The groom kept trying to steer his friend towards me and he kept ignoring me - the heavily pregnant, fat, be-hijabed, abaya-ed loud lady who was asking where her chocolate was. You can imagine I was not impressed with this guy. Especially as this came not long after the moustachioed photographer who looked older than me, called me Aunty.
There is a simple answer to this issue, one that resolves the matter in one small word - "sister". I have to acknowledge that most brothers are perfectly respectful and do call me sister. For those who are slightly confused, i.e. they are 30 but still think they are 16 in their minds, it's better to be in the safe side and unless the lady you are speaking to very clearly looks about your mum's age, call her sister. For the rest who have no manners and split women up into "hotties" and "notties" (i.e. everyone else), better to be careful and use the term sister, or I might respond to "excuse me aunty" with "yes baldy?"